Thursday, April 16, 2015

Classic Enemies: Back In Black

Today, I'm just going to focus on a single villain from Classic Enemies, a villain who might be my single favorite bad guy in the book.  John Black, aka Giles de Morphaunt, the Black Paladin, the Knight of the Crow (created by Steve Peterson).

Dude just radiates evil, doesn't he?

The story of the Black Paladin begins in Arthurian legend or, more precisely, the Arthurian legend of  Champions Universe.  Which is really perfect.  Comics are full of mythical mashups and edits, just look at DC's Etrigan, or Marvel's Thor.  The Black Paladin is firmly in that style of character.  According to the legends, he was an evil knight, a member of a cult devoted to dark powers and the arch-enemy of Launcelot, best knight of the Round Table.  Nearly slain by his foe, Sir Giles was placed in a magical slumber by his lover, a powerful evil witch.  Thus he remained for many centuries, until awakened by an American archaeology student.  Sir Giles tortured the young man, learned of this new age, and then killed him, taking his identity (John Black).  He now fights the knights of this age, who festoon themselves in skintight cloth, once again championing the cause of evil.

Pretty great, huh?  In terms of his actual write-up, he's far from the most powerful villain in the book (322 points), but he is incredibly effective.  Much of this is down to his magical mace, which can do 10d6 when thrown, but 15d6 as a melee attack, due to the ever-broken Hand-to-Hand Attack power.  His magic armor and shield provide him with enough protection to stand toe-to-toe with a heavy brick, and probably take him down.  His powers are all equipment-based (OAF or OIF), so if you can get him without his gear, he's vulnerable.  But he does have Instant Change, which I assume is a magical summoning of it to him, so good luck with that.

But the stats are really only part of the picture.  I love this guy because he has style.  He's full of florid speeches and morbid imagery.  He's the Death Metal counterweight to your bright and shiny Pop Star Heroes.  And with his magical origins, he's easy to fit into just about any situation dealing with the darker arts.  Have a powerful sorcerer who needs a bloodthirsty lieutenant?  Call the Black Paladin.  Evil cult of derivatives traders in need of a dark artifact and they don't want to get their hands dirty?  Call the Black Paladin.  Need the firstborn sons of an entire village slain in order to summon an Elder Horror?  Knight of the Crow, says it right on his business card.

When I've used him, I've given him some skills in Occult and other esoterica, just because it seems right.  He's a terrific foe for any sort of a magical hero; someone with a knightly theme is obvious, but straight-up sorcerers might find him even more menacing, what with the whole physical violence thing.  My favorite of his official appearances was in the 5th edition adventure Shades of Black, wherein he tries to resurrect his long-dead lover.  It's terrific.

I've noticed I don't get a lot of comments here, which is fine (I get quire a few in other places where I post links), but I wouldn't mind some.  If you've used the Black Paladin in your own games, feel free to share with the class.


9 comments:

  1. I haven't used the Black Paladin, but I think I unconsciously created a heroic counterpart one, a Mutants & Masterminds PC who was an Arthurian knight who survived to the modern era through magical hibernation or similar.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think I used him as a one off villain for a solo adventure. I didn't really delve too deeply into his background. He was there as a magical counterbalance to a technological based Iron Man-type PC. It was an interesting fight and a good game. I've not used him since, though I have a player in my game whose character has ties to the Authurian legends, so maybe it's time Black Paladin makes an appearance.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Definitely a very cool character, and arguably the best art Zircher did in the entire book.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Like you, I have always loved BP. He's sinister, potent, scary... a complete change from his Champions I-III phase when he was much cheesier. In his 4e rewrite, they hit it on the MARK. Then HERO game out with Shades of Black, which sported a cheesy cover, shallow plot, but an exquisite writeup that took BP into the major leagues -- his horse (that expanded his ability to teleport) and lance, which added killing damage to his repertoir. I was always partial to his ability to teleport in combat to outflank his foes. It was glorious. If you haven't at least run through Shades of Black, I highly recommend it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't *know* the Black Paladin, but I have certainly used characters very, very much like him. I will have to grab a Champions book (sadly a game I never really played) and look him up.

    But you are right about his role. I have a similar guy, Yoln the Shadow Reaper, he was so much fun in my D&D game I brought him back for my Buffy games.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm a fan of this guy too, especially when you put him in DEMON.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I teamed him as a partner to Dark Seraph, and the two formed the basis of one of the scariest villain teams I ever ran in Champions. I've a similar group in my new Modern Gods universe (where I pay homage to most of the Champions Universe I helped build), and they will be some of the nastiest supernaturals anyone will ever face.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What was it about that particular teamup (Seraph and BP) that made them so formidable? Was it just all the combined arcane malevolence, or something more specific, like a combined game mechanic, etc?

    ReplyDelete
  9. This guy is the #1 villain lieutenant in my world. So far no prison can hold him for long. If a major bad guy needs some to run the minion army and whip them into shape or cause mayhem in their name they call him. He is cruel, evil and loves to cause destruction and hurt just for a fun day out. He doesn't want to conquer the world like Dr D or get revenge on anyone like other master villains he just wants to break things and people. A very bad bad man

    ReplyDelete